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Thursday, 17 November 1921

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I have not had an opportunity of taking part in the previous debates on the Tariff, and I did not intend to take any part in the present debate. A member is necessarily sorely handicapped who "has been away from Parliament and the State, as I have been, during the whole period of the discussion. However, I feel 'im>pelled to say a word ov two in view of the. fact that certain strange and weird statements have been made regarding the position of the Government and those who have supported it. The Government has been blamed for obtaining the support of Parliament, as if that were a wrong thing. It is wrong to blame the Government for what Parliament has done when Parliament, in its wisdom, has indorsed the Tariff as far as it has gone. This item is only one of the many items of urgent every-day necessity in Australia. I wonder whether the Free Trade members of this Committee would have had as much to say against the establishment of the wire industry and other industries in Australia had this Tariff proposal been introduced, say, six years ago, when, every thoughtful Australian was bemoaning the fact that our factories were neglected, and that foreign factories were booming at the expense of the people of Australia. We had no shipping, and no other means of securing our requirements from overseas. The fact was brought home so forcibly to us that, as Senator Elliott has said, the Government came forward with inducements to manufacturers and others to establish, industries. Had this Tariff been introduced in the early stages of the war no man in the Senate, or in the other House, would have dared to raise his voice against high duties. We have heard a good deal about the primary producer and his requirements. It is true that the primary producer is almost the only man who uses wire. It might be thought that we were listening to election speeches. The primary producer has been held up again and again as the backbone of this country. I am as much interested in the primary producer, and am as anxious to see him prosper, as is any honorable member of the Senate, although I am not saying as much about it as some of them. I want to see the primary producer get all the encouragement he should get from a reasonable and sensible Government. I want to see the manufacturers and the workmen in the cities get reasonable and fair conditions. I am an Australian, and I stand for Australian rights - not for the rights of cheap-labour countries over whose workmen we have no control. The farmer is entitled to as much consideration as any other section of the community, but to no more and no less.

Senator Lynch - Would you give the manufacturer something he has never asked for?

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I do not know that I am very much influenced by what the manufacturer asks for, whether it is good, bad, or indifferent. The case for the farmer has been stated before this Committee to-day. We have been told that the farmer has no agents, no representatives, and no mouthpiece in this Parliament. With that statement I disagree. The farmer has his representatives, and his case has been well put by those who profess to befriend him. If the farmer has not taken steps to place his. position before members of Parliament, it is his own fault. I welcome the information that has been given to the Committee by manufacturers and others. It has been said that the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) has put up a very strong case against this proposed reduction. I take a different view. As the manufacturers of Australia are turning out the raw material from which wire is prepared, and as the raw material has been protected more strongly than the wire, it seems to me that that should cover the whole field. The protection of the raw material must necessarily afford ample protection to the wire industry. I had the privilege, a few months ago, of travelling through the northern portions of Australia. I covered tremendous areas of country and saw holdings which ran not into acres, but into miles. There were thousands of miles in one holding. At 'Wave Hill, near the Western Australia border, the firm of Vestey Brothers were erecting more substantial fences on their 10,000 or 11,000 square-mile holding. I was informed by the manager that the cost of the erection of the fence, apart from the cost of the wire, was £100 per mile. That included the wooden posts, which I think were 4 chains apart. Between the wooden posts were iron posts and droppers. The contractor had to provide the wooden posts and erect the fence, and Vesteys had to land the iron on the job. Two or three teams were employed in carting water to the men engaged in erecting the fence. This fact should give honorable senators an idea of the vastness of the undertaking.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Even then the cost would not be so much per acre as the cost to the small farmer.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - To the sum of £100 per mile has to be added the cost of wire, of iron posts, and droppers. It seems to me that protecting the raw material has amply protected the wire industry. The wire industry is established in Australia, and I have sufficient concern for the people who are using the wire to be anxious to assist them in every possible way. For that reason my sympathy is entirely with the Government. I intend to vote for a reduction in the cost of wire. From every platform from which I spoke in South Australia, at the last election, I told the electors that I was a Protectionist. I told them that I would do my best to establish industries in Australia. In voting for this reduction I am not breaking that pledge. I ask the Committee to insist upon the reduction that they have already made.

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